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Review of GSM-handset Sony Ericsson W302i
Live photos of Sony Ericsson W302i
The arrival of the W302 should come as no surprise, since itís all another attempt on Sony Ericssonís part to bring the Walkman range into the mainstream with an affordable solution that will dominate on the market with its light price tag. But the W302 is actually a bit of a mixed bag Ė while they had to keep its price within certain brackets, they also borrowed the design from already-announced top-tier offerings, such as the Sony Ericsson W880i and Sony Ericsson W890i.
Sony Ericssonís first experience with entry-level Walkmans came along with the W200i Ė this phone wasnít a wild success, though, in view of its relatively hefty price tag and a pretty spartan feature pack, which was partly made up for by its likable design. In pursuit of better price/quality ratios, people were much more willing to pay extra few dollars to get Sony Ericssonís offerings from the previous yearís line-up. Despite a pair of speakers the W200i came boxed with and a couple of other bonuses, the market didnít quite like it. All in all, it didnít went as planned, so the Sony Ericsson W200i never became the most popular Walkman handset ever, and incremental price drops only managed to keep the market somewhat interested in this offering. In terms of design, that phone was somewhat close to the first Walkman-branded handset, the W800i, and this similarity didnít work out all that well back then. But will it pull the trigger in consumersí minds this time around? Letís take a look at the W302i from a slightly different angle. What are they counting on? Itís pretty simple Ė design that resembles that of a more expensive offering. For reference, the Sony Ericsson W890i will retail for around 320-330 Euro against 170 Euro that will buy you a brand new W302i, which is almost half of the W890iís price. Itíd seem there can be no argument about which of these phones to go for; but you also need to take account of the W302's poor sales package and low-tier default headphones.
The release of a similarly looking phone also poses a threat to the W890i, in that it can dissolve the formerís target audience. Basically, the main reason why both the W890i and W880i are so popular is that most users picked them for their looks rather than multimedia prowess. Based on the experience of other phone makers, itís obvious that a cheaper counterpart doesnít bring about only negative effects for the sales of both phones. For instance, Samsung enjoyed the benefits of this approach when they rolled out an affordable slider, whose design copied that of the Samsung D900 curve by curve. Actually, that counterpart was insanely popular and was always out of stock, in spite of tremendous shipment volumes. But this isnít the example weíd like to use for the W302i/W890i duo, since while the W890 is a pretty decent phone in and on itself, itís not the key offering of Sony Ericsson, not an undisputed flagship. Thatís why its copy stands to sell in much smaller quantities.
Having delivered an alternative, Sony Ericsson have somewhat widened the audience of those who have always dreamed about the W880i/W890i but never had one; and, on the other hand, created a potential threat to these two phones. But this threat is nothing to be concerned about, since the W302i wonít see stellar sales over its first six months on the market. Itíll be off to a good start, but will slow down after that, just like the Sony Ericsson W200i.
Now letís change the course of our review a little Ė from how these audiences interfere to pricing and hardware. Thatís the field why Sony Ericsson have excelled, that is, they have ditched all premium materials and left only the metal slab on the front intact (the rest of the phone is made entirely of plastic). But, even this downgrade doesnít fully explain the W302iís phenomenally low price Ė the real reasons are its components and production cost, after all itís an ODM product. Sony Ericssonís portfolio already includes a handful of such handsets (entry-level ones, for the most part). They usually tailor and polish them to fit the software standards of other Sony Ericsson branded phones and if some features are missing, they simply write them anew. The W302iís closest sibling is the Sony Ericsson S302i that carries almost the exact same software and hardware, with the only differences lying in its music player and camera.
The W302iís software is a mere approximation to the A100 platform, weíll cover all the differences below, and thankfully there are more than three dozens of them. The phoneís light price tag is not only due to its operating system and feature pack, which is quite subpar, but also many of the W302iís components, such as the loudspeaker. Just for the sake of experiment I handed out the W302i to two friends of mine - both carried the W890i or W880i as their main phones. Then I asked them for a quick rundown on how the W302iís loudspeaker sounded, and surprisingly enough their opinions had a lot in common Ė they found it let more metallic notes into their ring tones and also the loudspeaker started creaking on the loudest volume settings. ďIt felt as if I went back in time to my old and cheap A-series Siemens phoneĒ was the verdict. All in all, the W302iís recipe for low price is cheap components wrapped up in a pretty stylish casing Ė thatís all there is to it.
The W302i shamelessly takes design cues from the Sony Ericsson W890i; this way, it comes in a choice of two colors - Midnight Black, Sparkling White. The front plate is a textured slab of anodized aluminum, just like the one found in the W890i, whereas the underside is made of mid-tier plastic.
Sitting on the left-hand side is the standard Fast Port connector along with the Walkman button. Perched on the opposite side are the volume rocker and camera key. Interestingly, there is no dedicated power button in the W302i. The lanyard eyelet is mounted at the base of the phone.
The W302i measures in at 100x46x10.5 mm and tips our scales at 78 grams Ė all in all, itís pretty pocketable and can be carried around however you please.
The handsetís display is capable of 176x220-pixel resolution (at a 2-inch diagonal, TFT matrix) and 262 K colors. It can accommodate up to 8 text and 3 service lines in most modes, although when browsing web pages or reading emails, you can have even more lines crammed in it (with a smaller font size, however).
All in all, the screen quality is not bad, especially for a budget phone Ė itís reasonably bright and stays visible in the sun. But it canít stand comparison to most other Sony Ericsson branded phones (and its forefather, the W890i in the first place), mainly because of its miniscule resolution.
The keys on the W302iís number pad are on the small side, but this doesnít hurt their ergonomics much, if at all. The orange backlight isnít particularly bright, but it can get the job done. Generally, the buttons here are not as good as those on the Sony Ericsson W890i, but definitely better than the W880iís numberpad.
The W302iís battery compartment cover is pretty tight, yet easy to open. Sitting underneath is a 950 mAh Li-Pol battery (BST-33), rated for up to 300 hours of standby and 7 hours of talk time.
In Moscow the W350iís battery time averaged 2.5 days with average use (up to one hour of calls, 30 minutes of games, 20 minutes of browsing). However in Europe you may well squeeze at least 1.5 times more juice out of it all thanks to superior coverage. The W350i can play music for 18 hours straight. It takes the phone around 2 hours to charge from empty to full.
On USB-connection you are forced to pick connection type Ė specifically whether you will be accessing data stored on the memory card to just keep managing the phone or activate Print mode. For the first mode we mentioned above the handset goes off and you gain access to the contents of both the memory card and the phone internal memory. Despite the maker claiming it to be USB 2.0, data transfer speed doesnít exceed 500 Kb/s. If you just want your W302i to turn into a modem, then pick the second option, when you will have a chance to play around with various USB settings for going online.
Unlike A100/A200-powered phones, the W302iís Bluetooth 2.0 doesnít support EDR. There is also A2DP support, which allows employing wireless headsets with the W302i. The list of supported profiles:
The W302i comes with around 20 Mb of user-manageable memory, the sales package also includes a 512 Mb memory card (M2), and you can always hot swap them. The top size of your memory card that this phone can handle is 8 Gb. The memory card slot is perched underneath the battery cover, so youíll have to remove it first to replace the card.
Obviously, in view of the W302iís smaller resolution it stand to reason that this phone should be slightly better performer that QVGA-armed models. But the difference turns out to be colossal. While Sony Ericsson's phones are already among the fastest offerings on the market, the W302i is even better. Curiously, when launching Java applications, youíll see the multitasking icon, however we couldnít find a way to minimize the W302iís programs or jump between them. Another interesting fact is that that maximum number of colors displayed in Java applications is 65 K, as opposed to the screenís real capacity of 262 K. But I suppose this shouldnít be much of a problem. There are no limits on JAR-file size, HEAP size Ė from 512 Kb to 1.5 Mb.
The device is equipped with a 2 MP camera with a CMOS matrix without auto-focus. The device supports three possible resolutions Ė 1600x1200, 1280x1024, 640x480 pixels. Two types of data compression (Normal and Fine) are at your disposal. The majority of the sample photos are in the Fine quality. The photos differ in size almost two times depending on the resolution. Thus a photo in the Normal mode takes up about 300 KB while the Fine quality results in 500-600 KB.
The camera settings look in the following way:
The screen serves as a viewfinder while in the shooting mode. The picture moves very smoothly, details donít get dropped out. Numeric keys help in switching between various functions and shooting parameters quickly that speeds up the phoneís operation.
Video may be recorded in two resolutions (176x144, 128x96), File format is 3GP. Clip duration may be limited (up to 10 seconds) or unlimited.
Lately we have made a rule of revealing normally secret platform names; but sometimes these indexes donít really mean anything, so we come up with some of our own, and the W302i is just another example of this. Since there is still a handful of W302i-esque phones to come, letís call its software platform ďA050Ē, which is a very fitting name in the framework of Sony Ericssonís portfolio.
The first thing you come across when getting to know the W302i is the size of all numbers displayed on the screen; also there is no way to set date and time other than ďSetup WizardĒ application, which is somewhat strange.
On the bright side, however, the W302i employs animation effects Ė that is, all windows pop up from and roll down into one point on the screen, and very smoothly at that, which makes browsing the phoneís menus all the more enjoyable. Unlike the A100, this platform shows three buttons on the screen, mimicking the setup of the A200.
Unfortunately, the W302i canít handle a couple of tasks simultaneously, which is one of the features drawing so many users to Sony Ericssonís handsets. The thing is, this particular phone employs a different virtual Java machine and its operating system doesnít support multitasking. Thatís why the key that seems to stand for Active Standby in A050 only calls up a list with shortcuts to various applications.
On top of that, as far as themes go, your choice is limited to preinstalled themes, and there is no support for flash-animation.
While the Fast Port socket is pretty much par for the course in Sony Ericsson branded phones, it wonít allow you to synchronize contacts or calendar events with PC, reducing the phoneís utility to that of a flash drive (if you have a memory card installed).
The Messaging section features such applications as MyFriends (which is in fact an IM client) and RSS Reader. Speaking of applications, A050 based phones donít come preinstalled with PhotoDJ or MusicDJ.
There is no voice dialing or commands.
The mail client has been downgraded as well, it doesnít have support for Push IMAP Idle.
While the platform allows for predictive text input, its system is developed by Zi Corporation instead of Tegic (T9). Thankfully, the core concept has been left intact and you wonít need to spend time getting used to it.
The stopwatch application doesnít feature the Split mode (only Lap), and furthermore, itís a Java app, meaning that it canít run in the background.
Both the organizer and to-do list support voice memos; but all in all, these applications are quite different from what we saw in A100 and A200. Plus you wonít be able to update the A050 firmware over the air.
Wrapping it all up, itís safe to say that A050 doesnít continue any of Sony Ericssonís previous ideas Ė in fact, itís a new separate platform for entry-level phones, that wonít get an upgrade down the road. The best thing we can hope for is a minor facelift that will glam it up a little to fit the style of A250/A300.
While the handsetís interface is a close sibling to that found on other Sony Ericsson branded phones with its three-button layout, the W302i canít multitask and offers only one main menu view (a grid).
Phonebook. You can run a first-letter search in the phonebook. When hovering over a contact you will see its default number, pushing the navigation key left and right will scroll through other phone numbers assigned to it.
When submitting a new contact, you will run across such fields as Name and First Name Ė donít get baffled by them, these are just minor hiccups that werenít cleaned up when they redesigned the platform to match Sony Ericssonís traditional style. You can throw up to four numbers into any entry, all fields are hardwired into phone, these are Home, Mobile, Work, Fax; so you wonít be able to have two Mobile numbers. Extra fields include two email addresses, one web site link, picture, personal tune and company name. The good thing about the W302i is that you can set up an automatic reminder when submitting a birthday date.
The W302iís contact groups can serve only for bulk mailing purposes Ė you wonít be able to set a picture or ring tone for them. When creating a new group, youíll stumble upon two Information options in the menu, but this is another hitch they have overlooked; in fact these are two different items.
Messaging. The W302iís messaging interface couldnít be simpler, furthermore, there are almost no extra settings, and basically the only thing you can do with it is format text (EMS). The phone also allows for a couple of customizable templates. The predictive text input system from Zi Corporation offers a couple of word options at a time in a drop-down list. One thing we would like to draw attention to is that when typing messages letter-by-letter, the W302i may become a real problem Ė mistakes and typos arenít that rare. For instance, when trying to type ďmoreĒ, you will definitely notice that having pressed ďmĒ you wonít be able to press the same button again to type ďoĒ, as the phone will simply scroll the list of the symbols assigned to ď6Ē down to ďoĒ. Apparently, they havenít set up input delays properly.
With the W302iís mail client you can play around with settings, i.e. make it retrieve all new messages or all. There is no way to set a limit on uploaded messages, which is a pity. Also it doesnít handle the character encoding part very well Ė in case a messageís headline and body are composed in different encodings, the W302i wonít be able to read it. All in all, the settings found here arenít always logical, and the mail client itself is inferior to that available with A100.
Call list. The general list contains up to 30 entries with special notes on callís date and time. Standing next to every entry is a thumbnail indicating call type (missed, incoming, outgoing). Apart from that, the list also houses some extra icons, such as those showing whether the phone number in question is stored in the handsetís memory or SIM card. You can check out missed calls in a separate list (up to 10 entries). All call lists are organized in a couple of tabs, which save a lot of time as far as navigation goes.
Entertainment. This section features a couple of games (3D Rollercoaster, QuadraPop), TrackID service, Video Player, and the voice recorder (which allows only for 30 second long clips).
Organizer. The Organizer menu has got a lot of functions underneath. Letís get Calendar out of the way first. There are three view modes embedded in the W302iís calendar: weekly, monthly and daily. The last option displays the list of all events and memos, in two others you will see highlighted time or day. You can also switch to any day and year, or month, everything is pretty straightforward, just as the schedule input is. You can name an event, define the place where it is set to take place, adjust its length and setup a reminder (before or right at the start of the event). Recurrent events support is also onboard. Types of reoccurrence: daily, monthly, yearly. Reminders work even if the phone is turned off as well, unless you disable this function. The W302i also boasts so-called voice reminders that allow recording one-minute audio clips that will be played back at the designated time
Tasks Ė nothing to write home about here, you can either make text or voice memos.
The calculator is thin on features as well.
The countdown timer and stopwatch are both pretty standard.
Applications menu on the W302i includes World Clock and Converter.
WAP. The W302i comes preinstalled with Openwave 7.2.7 browser that doesnít improve upon the latest version of NetFront in any way. Notwithstanding, it comes packed with some welcome features, including the ability to save passwords. On the other hand, it canít offer desktop-like page view or AJAX support. All in all, the W302iís browser isnít the most powerful app weíve seen to date.
File manager. The phone has a basic file manager, with its help files can be sorted by various folders, custom directories can be created in phoneís memory, files can be moved there as well. With a proper cable the phone can become a perfect storage device, there are no problems with throwing your own files on it, even if they cannot be opened by the phone. Traditionally, files can be sorted by date, type or size.
Radio. The W302ihas memory capable of storing up to 20 FM radio stations and the auto-tuning ability, as well as RDS feature onboard. But unlike other Sony Ericsson branded phones, RDS is thin on options here. The radio quality in the W302i isnít much different from that offered up by A100/A200 applications.
Walkman 2.0 Music Player
The W302iís music player comes in orange, but you can always change its color scheme to blue. While at the standby screen, you can fire up the player application by hitting the Walkman button; pressing it again will minimize it.
The handset locates all files and folders on the memory card, and then gets the necessary data from ID3-tags. Supported audio formats - MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV, WMA and m4a. There are no limitations on bit rates; you can also upload files with VBR. The company recommends using files with 192 Kbit/s bit rate.
In the music library, all saved tracks are classified by the following parameters:
Jumping between various horizontally arranged tabs allows viewing not only album art, but also artists list and tracks. All navigation in the W302iís music player can be done with a few taps, and in every list you can search by first letters. When playing back a song, you can select whether an album cover will be displayed or the Visualization feature will kick in. You can also enable Loop and Random modes for one or all tracks. And on top of all that the W302i enjoys progressive fast forward. Also there is so-called demo playback Ė this way, the phone will play only first few seconds of each song. The quality of the earphones coming included with the W302i is pretty average Ė they arenít even close to the previous editions of the HPM-70, let alone the HPM-77.
Settings. The number of available options has significantly decreased as compared to any A100-powered handsets Ė there are some themes in the W302i, but nothing special about them and you canít upload new ones; sound themes arenít customizable either, and on top of that, the Settings menu is the only place you can switch your current sound profile from. Apart from that, there are no unified network settings, meaning that youíll have to setup data connections for the browser and email client separately.
Our major concern was whether the W302iís call quality was any different from other Sony Ericsson branded phones; and to our delight it didnít fall flat on this front. Or, itíd be better to put it this way, it fared just as well as other offerings from Sony Ericsson with no significant highs or downs. On the other hand, its earpiece quality somewhat disappointed us Ė sound came through with a good deal of background hissing and static (itís not that loud, but itís there) and voices were not as rich. All in all, itís a typical budget solution that canít stand comparison with high-end phones, such as the W880i/W890i. On the loudest volume settings it lets a lot of noise and static slip into sound. Some might think we are just ranting about these minor things, but on the other hand, Nokiaís entry-level phones utilize the same components as all other handsets in the range. But then again, how many people will actually know about these shortcomings before buying the phone? Very few, thatís for sure.
The W302iís ring tone volume is also average, with a lot of creaking noises at top volume settings in sophisticated tracks. The vibro alert isnít particularly strong, but it can get the job done. Those who have owned a Sony Ericsson branded phone, the W302i will feel like something quite different, if not a step back. No disappointments will befall people who are new to the world of Sony Ericsson; on the contrary, they will think that the W302i has everything exactly the way itís supposed to be. For instance, you wonít be able to mark several files in a list, but once you decide to Send some content, you will be offered to send one file, several or all at once. This setup is abound on Samsungís phones, but Sony Ericsson can be better than that. The A050ís attempt to cross the three-button layout with the latest user interface (yet without multitasking functionality) only adds more confusion to Sony Ericssonís platform portfolio.
While most of the time the W302i will be blazing fast, sometimes you will notice sudden slow-downs; unfortunately we failed to figure out where they came from. At times like this, itís difficult to turn the phoneís screen back on Ė it may seem that the handset is shut down, but after a couple of seconds it gets back to normal. But if you can put up with these niggles and donít expect flawless performance from this entry-level phone, then you should do just fine.
By and large, those who have never owned a Sony Ericsson phone before, the W302i isnít a bad choice at all. If only it werenít for its overly hefty price tag in the neighborhood of 169 Euros (RSP for Europe). When it will arrive in October, the W880i will retail for only a tiny bit more, which will be a complete disaster for its lower-end sibling, since itís got all the features the W302i has on offer(except for the FM-radio) and surpasses the latter on many fronts, especially in terms of materials and wow-effect.
Having wrapped an ODM model into a recognizable design, Sony Ericsson prefer to charge a lot for it Ė in fact, this may be deemed a premium for its sophisticated curves and brand name. But the truth is, the W302i wonít experience lack of competition Ė there are lots of phones out there that are just as functional (take the Sagem my721X for example, which is almost an exact copy of the W302i). Later this year, in October, some markets will see a pared-down edition of the Motorola ROKR E8 Ė itíll sport same materials, audio jack and sound quality, but will come with a worse sales package, and without the touch-sensitive wheel-shaped pad (although the keypad will remain intact). Retailing for around 170-200 Euro it will leave the Sony Ericsson W302i way far behind.
Sony Ericsson designed the W302 as an answer to such phones as the Nokia 6300, but the truth is, this ďanswerĒ is nothing to write home about. Its music department wonít blow you away, the sales package isnít particularly rich; and basically, the only things going for it are design and relatively high price, which means the W302i will have a hard time on the market. All in all, itís very likely to follow in the footsteps of the Sony Ericsson W200i; itís price will remain on the same level until the end of 2008, and in spring of 2009 they will knock it down to 130-140 Euros to keep its sales afloat. But this is definitely not enough, for the W302iís price should make no more than 120-140 Euro at start Ė in fact, only this price tag can give it a chance to accumulate some significant sales. As far as loyal consumers go, the W302i brings nothing new to the table Ė itís aimed more at first-timers.
On balance, the W302i sports a likable design, average feature pack and an abnormally high price, which is 20-30 percent higher than the competition. Itís up to you to decide whether this W880i-esque design and Sony Ericsson branding are worth this premium. But this very phone will thrive more on impulsive purchases and see-it-and-buy-it attitude, when consumers donít really know or care what they buy.
Published 26 August 2008
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